Running back David Johnson fights for yardage in the Cardinals' win in Philadelphia last week.
David Johnson doesn't remember a lot of details from his 47-yard Marshawn Lynch-esque touchdown run in Philadelphia last week, calling it "a blur."
"I didn't know what was going on until I saw a replay after the game," Johnson said.
But with a smile he admitted the play is his new favorite of his work this rookie season, trumping his 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in Chicago back in September. The run impressed himself – "Yeah, definitely," he said – which
means something given how humble the third-round draft pick has been with whatever he has done this season.
There is reason for everyone to be impressed, however. The Cardinals are now sixth in the NFL in rushing with two games to go. The Cards have never finished higher than 11th in the NFL in rushing since moving to Arizona in 1988, and have finished higher than 21st only once since 1995.
Johnson, meanwhile, has 378 yards rushing in his first three NFL starts with the Cardinals – the best output for a Cardinal in his first three starts in franchise history. The great Ottis Anderson had 339 in his first three starts. Johnson's 12 total touchdowns is also a Cardinals' rookie record.
"We've told you all along David is a good football player," offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. "We never thought we were going to take a hit there as far as the running game. We knew the kid had talent."
Johnson, who has 517 yards rushing total this season, said he wasn't sure what to expect as the season began. When he became starter after the injuries to Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington he was "not trying to lose a beat," he said. "Trying to keep our team's running game up to par."
He's done that, and then some.
"We drafted the talent," coach Bruce Arians said. "We knew what the talent was. You never know the maturity of the guy. He's a very mature guy. Comes to work every day and his preparation is flawless. What he does on the field, athletically, doesn't surprise me at all."
RASHAD JOHNSON, ELLINGTON BOTH EXPECTED TO PLAY; PALMER THROWING "WELL"
Arians said safety Rashad Johnson (ankle) and running back Andre Ellington (toe) are both expected to play Sunday
against the Packers. Only defensive tackle Josh Mauro (calf) has been ruled out, and Arians said there will be some "healthy scratches" for the Cardinals.
In terms of Johnson, Arians did give some wiggle room. "We'll see how tender he is (Saturday)," Arians said.
Arians also dismissed the idea of having Matt Barkley active as third quarterback Sunday to hedge against the finger injury of Carson Palmer. Palmer is listed as probable despite being limited all week, and previously said the finger – which got hurt against the Eagles – was fine.
"(Carson) was throwing the ball really well Thursday and Friday," Arians said, noting that Palmer's reps on Wednesdays have been diminishing "since October."
Along with Ellington and Johnson, defensive tackles Cory Redding (ankle) and Frostee Rucker (ankle) are both officially questionable, but both are expected to play. For the Packers -- who did not practice on Christmas -- linebacker Jayrone Elliot (quadricep) is out, and cornerback Sam Shields (concussion) is doubtful. Tackle David Bakhitari (ankle), defensive tackle Letroy Guion (foot) and tight end Justn Perillo (hamstring) are questionable. UPDATE: On Saturday, Shields and Perillo were downgraded to out, and Bakhitari was downgraded to doubtful.
ARIANS UNDERSTANDS NEED TO HAVE PLAYCALLING
Packers coach Mike McCarthy surprised many before the season when he finally ceded playcalling duties to offensive coordinator Tom Clements. But with the roller-coaster way Green Bay's season has gone, McCarthy took back the job two games ago – both solid offensive performances with a renewed push to the running games.
"Personally, trust me, it's not what you want to go through, but professionally, it's a decision that I obviously felt like I had to make," McCarthy said. "There are things you set out to accomplish each and every year as a coaching staff. But, things change sometimes as you go through the season. I felt like I needed to make the change."
Arians has long noted his desire to keep his own playcalling duties. He said he talked to McCarthy about the choice last March at the owners' meetings.
"I asked him, 'Why'd you give this up?' because I know he enjoyed it as much as I do," Arians said. "He said, 'I think I can be a better head coach.' But I think he's a lot like me. He's like, 'No, I've got to take this back over.' And you see the running game and the commitment to it."
Images of key players from this week's opponent, the Green Bay Packers